Having been raised to believe God was waiting around the next corner to “zap” me if I breathed wrong, I was filled with fear and hopelessness. At the age of 15, my mother allowed the church to begin making arrangements for my marriage to the preacher’s son. Totally aware I had no choice in the matter I accepted that fate and married when I was barely 17…………leaving high school and moving to another state. Mental and emotional abuses were added to my already oppressed life. And then……..after 13 years……..he left.
Battered…….bruised…….no self confidence………and feeling hopeless, it took me two years to get the courage to decide I even had any value worth working on. As my confidence slowly grew, I joined a church choir.
Then came the weekend that the choir went away for a retreat.
I was terrified……..but longed to be included. I had no extra money, but someone offered to pay my way. Someone else gave me a ride in their car. That’s how I ended up sitting at the feet of a man named Bob Benson. His words helped change my life.
He was a scrawny, little man with a timid sounding voice. He had no grand gestures or extreme passion. But he was so very real. I drank in his words.
He began to speak of having crystal glasses and china dishes in the cupboard. I couldn’t relate. We had never had either. He talked of how those glasses and dishes were saved for “good”…..and how wasted they were, because “good” only happened once or twice a year.
His words turned to the peanut butter jar. It comes home in the grocery bag. Someone puts it in the cupboard. The kids get it out to make sandwiches. Over the days, it becomes empty. Somehow it ends up in the dishwasher. When the clean dishes are taken out of the dishwasher, the empty peanut butter jar is placed in the cupboard…….with part of the label still stuck on. Someone is thirsty…….reaches in the cupboard……and gets the jar to use for a drink. And the cycle begins. It goes back in the dishwasher. Maybe this time it gets chipped or a little bit more of the label comes off. But it is a vital part of the daily life.
While that picture was clear in our minds, he opened his Bible to Colossians 1:27b.
“For this is the secret, Christ lives in you.”
He began to explain how we are all vessels. Some are like the exquisite crystal…….and they rarely do “good”. I’m sure my eyes opened wider and wider. These were the people I had been taught to revere and model after. Somehow, I was just never was quite “good” enough.
When he began to talk about the “peanut butter jar” people, tears ran down my cheeks. There I sat, with my jar chipped and labeled. But he was telling me I was a vessel; one that could be a vital part of the every day life of the Christian.
I didn’t change overnight. It was a slow process. But I had a secret. Christ was in ME. My job was to be the vessel. I sat a peanut butter jar on our counter at home as a constant reminder. I knew with every fiber of my being that I COULD BE A PEANUT BUTTER JAR!
I have turned to that scripture again and again. The Message Bible says, “The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you……..It’s that simple.”
The vessel is NOT the important part. It is what we contain.
You may not be a “peanut butter jar”, but I’m sure you know someone who is. They may be very quiet and distant………or rough around the edges with tattoos and piercings. Perhaps they are just angry. Maybe, like I was, they have a lot of illnesses that are psychosomatic. They just don’t know it yet, but they can be vessels containing a secret…..CHRIST. It is our job to let them in on that secret.
Each time I see a peanut butter jar, I am reminded of that evening long ago. Bob Benson didn’t have a pulpit made out of wood. He stood in front of a fireplace. But that night he became my minister as he opened the scriptures for me.
I may be chipped and still have some label stuck on me, but I am a vessel containing the incredible secret that Christ lives in me.
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